I’m doing a predictions list, and I have to put it out now because the whole league starts playing in 2 hours. I planned on posting this two weeks ago, and I actually wrote it on April 3 or 4, but it’s just now getting completed. I don’t really see much of this in Finland, but in America there are predictions galore. Hell, there are mock drafts for the NFL for all 200-something picks, even though no one in the world can be sure who is going to get picked 157 or 39 or 213, not even the people making those picks know until a few minutes before. My list is not going to be as specific as those. Instead, I will group the league into 4 categories: Possible champions, medal contenders, middle of the pack teams and finally, relegation fighters. It should be noted that last year I predicted that JJK would be relegated and VPS would get 3rd, though I also predicted TPS would be 2nd and Honka below top 6 (that was before Honka’s still-mysterious spending spree that brought them 5 new starters in a week). Without further ado, my predictions.
Preseason predictions for Veikkausliiga 2014:
Possible Champions: HJK
Let’s be honest, HJK has double the budget and more talent than any other team in the league. I think we (VPS) can beat them, but how many other teams can? They lost their most productive player in Zeneli and a great striker in Pojonpalo(sp), but they replaced those spots with Alho(Aho?...the black guy) and Forsell, so I don’t think they’re too stressed right now. The championships streak has to end sometime, but it won’t be 2014.
Medal Contenders: VPS, KuPS, Inter, IFK Mariehamn
I think VPS will be #2 this year, simply because I think we’re slightly stronger than last year and our competitors are slightly weaker. Simple as that.
KuPS is something of a dark horse. They apparently have tons of money and every year they seem like they should be one of the best teams, but inevitably end up finishing 7th. I think if they start well enough to actually care about the last 15 games, then they can finish in the medals.
Inter had a bad year last year, but they got Ojala back and that’s a big deal. His set play service is worth 15 points a season. They also obviously have the striker whose name I can’t think of right now who always scores with his head (as long as he avoids threatening referees) and the winger Duah is a heck of a player. They also have Gruborovics(sp) who is very good and I think they still have the dutch midfielder, who is probably my favorite non-VPS player in the league.
IFK Mariehamn is a great attacking team, but they will probably be undone by their defense. I know from experience that it’s fun to play with a team that scores a ton of goals, but nothing is more frustrating than scoring 3-4 goals in a game and losing or drawing. Despite their talent, they have a lot of personalities that won’t like being on the bench for even one game. A good start for this team could put them top 3, a bad start and they’ll implode and could finish 10th.
Middle of the pack: MYPA, SJK, RoPS, Lahti*, Honka*
This is the “Why are we even playing?” group. They all have talent, but probably not enough to win medals and too much to be relegated.
Lahti has a star because they might actually belong in the medal contender group. I don’t know much about their players, but the striker is a beast and will score plenty of goals. I also like the tactical flexibility of their coach. He will have Lahti ready to play 2-3 different formations which will serve them well. They’ll be able to adjust to tactical mismatches in-game which will allow them to earn points in matches where the initial gameplan isn’t working. This is essentially the opposite of JJK last year, who had such a rigid gameplan that they could be beaten by literally anyone. And they were.
MYPA, SJK and RoPS are all the same to me so I’m putting them together. All will get sufficient points at home to not be in danger of relegation, but each will struggle, especially away and in the summer as the season stretches on. Don’t be surprised if any of these teams is top 4 in June, but I can promise none of them will be top 3 in September or later. I’ll let you in on a secret in the league, and that is that every team in Veikkausliiga wants RoPS to get relegated. No one likes going there, the field isn’t very good and there’s no fan atmosphere to make the game fun. Ironically, that lack of motivation going to Rovaniemi is a big reason why RoPS takes so many points at home and is in absolutely no danger of being relegated.
Honka is another team with a star because I think they might actually belong in the relegation fighters group. They have a new coach who was a great player, but I don’t know what his coaching credentials are like. There’s a reason Michael Jordan and Zidane aren’t head coaches [edit: Zidane is now]...sometimes a coach’s personal greatness makes them unable to teach less gifted players how to succeed. Honka also is filled with young players and that’s tough. I had that situation when I played at Enkoping and despite our skill, we lost every game to more experienced teams.
Relegation fighters: Jaro, TPS
Jaro is here every year, and they never actually get relegated so I don’t know what more to say about them. They have one of the top coaches, but their lack of money and unwillingness to win ugly puts them in this group. They tried to be pragmatic in the last game we played against them last season and embarrassed themselves. They simply don’t bring in players who fit that fighting style that is so important in the first 5 and last 5 games in this league. The ironic thing is that Jaro would probably have more success in Allsvenskan, which is a better league than Veikkausliiga, because the games are more based on possession and finesse than fighting.
I don’t know one thing about TPS except that Patrick Lomski is playing there now and that they are in financial trouble. They had to get rid of a bunch of players and seem to be going into this season with a bunch of young hopefuls and lower division talent with a very good british guy running the midfield. Sounds eerily alot like Haka in 2012.
That’s the preview. Feel free to shower me with praise in November when my predictions are shown to be true. Just call me Blackstradamus. If I'm horribly wrong, well then screw you make your own predictions and leave me alone :)